2010-08-25 / Sports

Area football teams kick-off season Friday night

Several key games on
by Dale Ball Sports Editor

Jason VanDerMaas Jason VanDerMaas One of the warmest summers we have had in years is not quite over, at least, officially until September 23. The start of the high school football season in the area this Friday night will also see some heat, in a different way.A

few of the teams will face critical opening games in seasons that hold plenty of promise. Getting off to a winning start could ignite the spark and strengthen any pre-season confidence.

Here are a few openers Friday night that might begin to tell a story for the season.

Cros-Lex at Dearborn Divine Child (at Dearborn Crestwood High School, 7 p.m.)

The Pioneers went 7-2 in the regular season a year ago and won a BWAC title. Both losses came to the teams they will meet in the first two weeks of this season. First up is Divine Child from a strong division of the Detroit Catholic League, followed by Yale, which spoiled C-L’s unbeaten league record at the end of the BWAC season in ‘09.

Brad Bays Brad Bays Coach Jason VanDerMaas at Cros-Lex has high hopes of another successful season with plenty of key players returning. Finding a way to turn around a 24-0 loss to the Falcons a year ago would be a perfect shot in the arm this Friday night.

“Our schedule doesn’t give us any favors early,” remarked VanDerMaas. “Divine Child’s defense is very strong. Both of their middle linebackers return, and they are both strong and good. And, they have a lot of experience in the defensive line.”

A year ago, the Pioneers had trouble getting its spread offense to click in the opener. VanDerMaas, though, is looking for that to change this time under veteran quarterback Ryan Fabbri, who turned out to be one of the leading scorers and rushers in the area last season.

Denny Lester, Marlette Head Coach, talks with players during a recent practice. (Photo by Dale Ball) Denny Lester, Marlette Head Coach, talks with players during a recent practice. (Photo by Dale Ball) “We didn’t have an identity on offense in that first game last year, and that’s my fault,” pointed out VanDerMaas. “But, we should be ready this year.”

VanDerMaas added that Fabbri, who has improved his passing game, will also get a rest at times when sophomore Nathan Guitar also gets some playing time.”

In a five-way scrimmage at Ortonville-Brandon last week, Cros-Lex held its own against bigger schools like Goodrich, Brandon, and Avondale.

“We did well, but, obviously, we have a to work on some things. The big thing is we came out healthy,” said VanderMaas.

With a large squad of over 40 players, VanDerMaas explained that those numbers speak well. “We have lots of depth, and at almost every position. Plus, we have good team speed.” His one concern is some inexperience in the offensive and defensive lines. He added, though,” We have young lines, but they will be talented groups.”

Sandusky at Cass City (7 p.m.)

The Redskins got off to a quick start a year ago when they took down a young Red Hawks team, 33-7, and went on to earn a spot in the playoffs. Coach Brad Bays has a little younger, but talented group this time around. With perennial GTC East power Ubly set to come into town to kick-off league play next week, an opening victory on the road would be a big plus for Sandusky.

“Cass City has a lot back from last year. They had four or five sophomores up there,” noted Bays on this year’s Red Hawks team. “They have two 6’4”, 200 pounds ends on offense and defense. If we can block those two well, we could be okay.

“We want to get off to a fast start,” continued Bays,. “Our schedule early is pretty tough, so we want to play well early.”

With several players up from an 8-1 JV team (only loss was to unbeaten Ubly by a TD), Bays took his young squad to St. Charles for a five-team scrimmage last week.

“it went pretty good. We were able to do a lot of things we wanted to do,” said Bays.

What he wants to do is run the ball well out of the Wing T.

“This is one if the fastest teams I’ve had here, and our backs run the ball well,” Bays explained. “We’ll be a little more old-fashioned (on offense), but it won’t be a Wing-T with double tight ends. We can still spread it out a little bit, but just a little differently.”

Junior Justin Mills will move into the QB spot vacated by three-year starter Jordan Katt. Up front blocking is an ‘O’ line that Bays likes a lot. Plus, there are a few new players at the skill positions up from that successful JV squad.

“They’re ready to play, and we’ve got smart linemen. We’ve been waiting for these guys to move up,” Bays said.

Otisville-Lakeville at Marlette (7 p.m.)

With a large number of underclassmen, including several sophomores, on last year’s team that went 5-4 overall, Coach Denny Lester couldn’t wait to get going again this fall.

The first test for this group came in a four-team scrimmage at Yale last week. The Red Raiders lit it up against Memphis and Burton Bendle and then got the test it needed against Yale, who should vie for the BWAC title this fall with Cros-Lex.

“We had a nice scrim- mage. We did a lot things out there,” mentioned Lester. “We have athletes, and when you have athletes, you can do a lot more things. This is the most speed we have ever had.”

Speed and talent is the right ingredients for Lester’s spread offense that can put up points in a hurry.

Junior Kolby Lange was set to be the starter a year ago but missed the campaign due to an injury. His ability showed up at the scrimmage.

“Kolby probably scored six TDs in the scrimmage. He just gives us that ability to do different things out there,” commented Lester.

Two years ago, the Raiders were led by a very talented QB in Austin Comment, who turned in many dazzling plays in the spread offense.

“Austin’s probably the best player I’ve ever had,” said Lester, who added. “I don’t want to compare (Lange and Comment) because it wouldn’t fair to Austin or to Kolby, who hasn’t played a (regular-season) game yet.”

The Raiders will have a good, but not real big corps of players up front in both lines, but it will be the team’s overall speed that should stand out.

The first test comes at home Friday night against Lakeville. The Falcons have had just three winning seasons (all 5-4) on the gridiron since 1979. Those non-winning ways, though, could change soon.

Bob Buckel, a MHSFCA Hall of Fame inductee, stepped away from 19 years of success at Flushing High this past year. He has now emerged at Lakeville, his alma mater. In his tenure at Flushing, Buckel’s team’s averaged over six wins a season.

Lester, simply, does not know what to expect from Lakeville this Friday night.

“For us, (the concern) is the unknown. That’s worrisome to me,” said Lester. “From our perspective, we have to do a lot of guessing at what they’re going to do. They have a new coaching staff. But, we know they will be well-coached.”

All of the unknown will become reality this Friday night for area teams.

Other area games Friday night: - Peck at Brown City in a recently traditional opener; Oscoda at Deckerville in a warm-up for the Eagles return to the NCTL.

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